Compare And Contrast Two Ethical Theories.

2167 words - 9 pages

In this essay I have chosen to compare two opposing theories, Immanuel Kant's absolutist deontological ethics and Joseph Fletchers relativist situation ethics. The deontological ethics focuses on actions made according to duty and the categorical imperative - which shows how acts are intrinsically good or bad. The situation ethics state that no act is intrinsically good or bad, and that actions should b made according to love. From this perspective it looks as thought Kant's views were less personal than Fletcher's, although in actuality both focus on the best outcome for humans.Deontological ethics is concerned with actions, not consequences. To act with good intention but have a bad outcome is still moral. Similarly if the intention is bad, then it is wrong in all circumstances and situations, even if it turns out for the best. If benefiting from the act is the motivation for the action, it negates any morality from a good deed. To be good and act morally is to do ones duty - duty being to obey moral law."Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe...the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me"Kant (1788).Kant believed that humans know the moral law through reason and without reference it the consequences, and that it was part of people's duty not to be distracted by their emotions. If moral law dictates you ought to do something, it implies that it can be done, as it is not our duty to do the impossible. Therefore there is no excuse not to obey natural moral law.Kant maintained humans' work towards an ultimate end in which human virtue and happiness is brought together, and justice prevails. This is what is known as the summum bonum. As it is impossible to achieve it in this life, he said it was reasonable to assume that there would be a next life with God, where there is an opportunity for reaching the supreme good. In his opinion, morality leads to God.He also believed that morality is prescriptive. Once a person knows of a moral requirement it is their reason for doing something. The categorical imperative helps us to know which actions are obligatory and which are forbidden."All imperatives command either hypothetically or categorically...If the action would be good simply as a means to something else, then the imperative is hypothetical; but if the action is represented as good in itself...then the imperative is categorical."Kant (1797)From this he said that all moral imperatives are categorical -"I ought to do such and such." (E.g. "I ought to tell the truth" makes no reference to wants or needs). There are three main principles of the categorical imperative; the universal law, "treat humans as the ends" as opposed to means, and "act as if you live in a kingdom of ends."The universal law dictates you should "act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." This means that if an action is wrong for one person, it is wrong for every...

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